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On Reflection - "A Countryside Diary - Look to See "

It was one of those ideas prompted by these strange times. Let's invite a few members at a time to talk about putting together a "Countryside Diary" . A bit like a sketchbook, the diary is just a few notes and some sketches about a botanical subject and its relationship to its surrounding environment be it in an urban back garden or out in the countryside. The term countryside made it seem attractive , particularly for those of us who were corralled in an urban landscape because of some spikey virus. With no chance to get to the real countryside due to restrictive travel rules, the "Countryside Diary" was a welcome distraction. Something that sounded a little more open than the four walls of our humble dwelling.

As it turned out the live "Countryside Diary Event" run by Pam Taylor and Annie Morris was close to a sellout in just 48 hours! Forty places in 48 hours.

We limited the number of participants for the live Zoom sessions so that there could be some personal interaction and it was just not a sea of faces. It was also something new and we were finding our feet as much as anybody.

In the end it all worked out really well even though the time zone differences forced some of our more remote participants out of their warm bed at 5am in the depths of a southern hemisphere winter.

From the feedback Annie ran a tight ship and got everybody talking and Pam in her calm and considered manner, showed us her really deep knowledge of the natural world.

Thankyou Annie and Pam.

We also had some great feedback and we have added some of these below together with some of the pages from individual "Countryside Diaries" so thankyou to all those who contributed.

Keep reading to see what our next live Zoom event will encompass.

The ABBA Team

From our participants ....

"I have now been involved in four Zoom sessions with ABBA members chairing a discussion on keeping a Botanical Diary and I have loved it. Like many of you I had not heard of Zoom until a few months ago but have realised it is a wonderful way for our members to get together. Members have joined the sessions from around the world and I have very much enjoyed meeting them as well as our UK members, it is so interesting to hear everyone’s botanical art stories."

Annie Morris


"I'm writing with thanks for last evening's very interesting and informative Zoom session with Annie and Pam. I gleaned some useful tips on what to record, such as including insects on plant sketches and recording a particular plant throughout the year.  I shall aim to incorporate these into my existing perennial nature journal. Deserving of a new sketchbook, is the suggestion to draw a leaf a day.

It was also lovely to e-meet the other participants , hear of their very different approaches to their work and see some examples.

I'm enclosing a few snippets from my perennial nature journal.

Best wishes."

Janet H


"I am very much a beginner and this is the first year that I have started a sketchbook, which I am thoroughly enjoying! It is just lovely being part of this very friendly community and learning, learning learning! The Nature Sketchbook workshop was my first experience of a Zoom interactive workshop. I was apprehensive at first because of the format of the workshop being IT and also, I think, because trying something new after months of Covid uncertainty adds a new dimension to any lack of confidence. I am also a beginner and thought I might be out of my depth. It soon became apparent though that I had nothing to worry about. It was so well facilitated, we were encouraged to share and it was fascinating watching and hearing Pam talk about her botanical diary, including method of working, materials etc. I also enjoy and gain a better understanding of plants through watching The three Bs.

I would personally love to be able to take part in future workshops like these. Particularly as a beginner, to soak up tips and advice. Small groups work really well as it makes it easier to feel more included and engage with. I think there is an inherent informality to these workshops because of the friendliness of everyone, generosity of sharing and it is fun - which is very much needed these days!"

Audrey B-D


"I thoroughly enjoyed the countryside sketch book virtual workshop, ran by ABBA hosts Dr. Pamela Taylor and Annie Morris. The content was very informative, both around the botany of the chosen example subject - Ivy, and various ways to keep a journal, useful published books as guides and the types of notes to take when journaling in the field. It was also lovely to virtually meet fellow ABBA members from around the world.

In the workshop I attended we were joined by members from the UK, the US and Tasmania.

The tone of the workshop was set just right, allowing for varying experience across the group, and also allowing for time for everyone to speak and share their thoughts/artwork. No mean feat when running a meeting via Zoom."

Marie B


"Hi, I felt totally inspired by Pam's talk on keeping a countryside diary and I did write to Pam and Annie to tell them so. Since then I have been keeping a diary of my garden flowers which I love doing. I then bought a new sketchbook and started doing a couple from my photos I took. I then felt brave enough to go out 'on location' to one of my local nature reserves last weekend and sat drawing in the middle of a wildflower meadow. I loved it! 

I am only a beginner and learning watercolours so wouldn't want to show my work on the website but sketching more has helped me get back to doing more drawing and painting during the lockdown.  So thank you again."

Sheila H


"I did enjoy the session. It gave me thought for getting  better structure and purpose if I take up keeping another diary. I have attached 3 pages from a 2016 sketch book I kept when looking at a garden we inherited as we removed old trees and bushes and did renovation and made plans. I used some of the material for a botanic art course I was doing.

It was of particular interest to me to find that some plants were AWIs or Ancient Woodland Indicators. We knew there had been a gravel pit in the area in the past and using Francis Rose's book, The Wild Flower Key I was confident that our garden was part of a natural border of self seeded plants and trees.

The first photo is common holly, Ilex aquifolium. The second is a bell flower or Canterbury bell, Campanula persicifolia.

The third is goat’s rue, Galega officinalis, known to be found in disused quarries. This being of the pea family became the foundation for my botanic project which centred round the Fabaceae family.

Lisa C


It was so lovely to meet you and Elaine and the rest of the ABBA members. Thank you so very much for the opportunity and making us all feel so welcome. It was really a wonderful experience which really helped me to understand the value of keeping a botanical diary and making plant observations via sketches, rather than just photos, to capture the character and essence of each plant and be able to observe its entire life cycle and ecosystem and unique characteristics.

I understand much better why investing time in a sketchbook, rather than just “finished artwork” is so valuable, as it can only enrich your final paintings. I also found all the mentions of those wonderful books very interesting, and something I am definitely going to invest in. Understanding the Flowering Plants - by Anne Bebbington has been on my wishlist for a while and going to purchase it soon.

I would love to make a new entry after all the inspiration and send that along too. I bought some Blushing Bride Protea flowers, which only blooms this time of year and is native to our area.

Jonanda K


Since this appears to have been an event that has been enjoyed by our members we are planning another that aligns with the season in the northern hemisphere. Here in the U.K. there is a nip in the air and condensation on the cars in the morning so the long dark nights are approaching. Pop over the equator and it's the first signs of spring - so the natural cycle continues regardless of what is going on in our world .

A Countryside Diary

"Exploring Autumn Fruits and Seeds in Colour"

We are really pleased to announce that our next live event in the Countryside Diary series is "Exploring Autumn Fruits and Seeds in Colour" . As for the previous event, numbers will be limited for each session so make sure you register early so you don't miss out. This series will again be hosted by Pam and Annie who will focus on the Autumn / Fall seasonal change. We hope these live sessions becoming a regular feature for our members.

To register for this event :

1. You must be a current member of ABBA (you can join here)

2. If you are already a member you will receive an email with a personal invitation.

3. There will be a link in the email to register for "Exploring Autumn Fruits and Seeds in Colour" .

So look out for an email and we are really looking forward to catching up with you in the next few weeks.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

The ABBA Team


1 Comment

I was very happy to participate in the session and really enjoyed the discussion, even through my English is a bit rusty. I want to thank Annie for her kindness.

This summer I started my diary by studying the flower of trentino. Now I am using it to prepare a picture of apple from region

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